Police: Nothing criminal found in 'suspicious package'

Package prompts police, school evacuations

CINCINNATI - Police evacuated several buildings in the city's West End, including District 1 and two high schools, after a FedEx driver reported a suspicious package Thursday afternoon.

The package was reportedly located in the 300 block of Ezzard Charles Drive around 2:30 p.m. near police headquarters. Police promptly evacuated surrounding buildings and shut down several streets.

Police Chief James Craig held a news conference just before 3 p.m. to discuss the department's preliminary findings. Chief Craig told reporters the incident began when a driver of a FedEx truck was slated to deliver a package to an unknown address. The driver became concerned and the took the package to District 1 where he notified officials.

As a precaution, District 1 was evacuated and Taft High School and the virtual high school across the street were put on lockdown. Students at high schools were held on lockdown until their regular dismissal times, according to CPS Public Affairs Director Janet Walsh. Once police gave school staff the OK, the students exited the buildings using John Street, and avoided the area where the FedEx truck was parked. An approximate total of 900 students safely exited the premises.

Buildings near the perimeter of the incident, including CET and Music Hall, were also advised to evacuate, according to Lt. Kimberly Williams, but it is not clear if they took action.

After nearly four hours of investigation, the fire department found "nothing criminal" inside the package. Capt. Paul Humphries told reporters several boxes were removed from the FedEx truck, and through the use of bomb sniffing dogs and a "bomb robot" police found the package only contained a shipment of clothing.

Capt. Humphries said police and fire departments followed the proper protocol and safety measures, which is why the investigation took several hours. Humphries added the FedEx driver took the right course of action when he notified authorities. He said the driver was advised to go to police headquarters and that the circumstance created "a perfect storm in this day at age where people have to be careful."

Sally Davenport, a spokesperson for FedEx headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., told 9 News the driver "did the right thing" and took the appropriate action, which the company teaches in driver training. According to Davenport, the driver said a black or blue car was following him during the delivery, which raised suspicions. Police have not confirmed whether another vehicle was involved in the incident at this time.

Chief Craig said he had no reason to believe anyone was in danger. Both narcotics and explosive K-9 units assisted the fire department in the investigation. The fire department's bomb squad was also on the scene.

Police shut down part of Ezzard Charles Drive from Central Parkway to John Street and 15th to Clark Street. The scene was  cleared around 6 p.m. The public was urged to stay away from the area until the investigation was completed.

Lt. Williams said District 1 operations were not disrupted by the event and officers were still available to hep the community and answer phone calls.

Walsh said parent conferences that were scheduled for Thursday night at Taft High School were canceled. Music Hall stated their performances will continue Thursday night as scheduled.

The U.S. Postal Service says there are signs to watch for should you have a potential problem with a letter or package received in the mail.  No return address, misspelled words or excessive postage may signal something dangerous inside. Other possible signs include if the address is poorly typed or written, or if the package or letter was mailed from a foreign country.

USPS advises if you think a letter or package contains a threat don't handle it, isolate it immediately, and call 911.

Stay with 9 News and WCPO.com for updates.


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